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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Protesting monks storm media tour in China

April 10, 2008

LUCY HORNBY
Reuters
April 9, 2008

XIAHE, CHINA — Fifteen Tibetan Buddhist monks interrupted a
state-sponsored media tour of a restive region of western China on
Wednesday, demanding the return of the Dalai Lama and yelling that they
had no human rights.

In the second such incident in as many months, the monks, carrying a
banned Tibetan flag, burst out of a building at the Labrang monastery in
the town of Xiahe, in the northwestern province of Gansu, and rushed
across a plaza to a group of 20 visiting Chinese and foreign journalists.

“The Dalai Lama has to come back to Tibet. We are not asking for Tibetan
independence, we are just asking for human rights. We have no human
rights now,” one monk told the reporters in Chinese.

Many of the monks had covered their heads in robes. One monk, with his
robe over his head, kept pushing his right hand over his left fist and
saying “China - Tibet”, implying that China was suffocating Tibet.

They said eight monks were still being held by authorities, but did not
specify if they were from Labrang or elsewhere, and that plainclothes
agents of China's paramilitary armed police force were stationed
throughout Xiahe.

Some of the monks threw prayer shawls over the shoulders of photographers.

Officials leading the tour did not appear to try to intervene during the
incident, but a number of older monks persuaded the protesters to
disperse after about 10 minutes.

Hundreds of monks from the Labrang monastery led a march through Xiahe
in mid-March, after riots erupted in the Tibetan regional capital Lhasa
on March 14.

Xiahe is one of the biggest centres of the Dalai Lama's Gelukpa branch
of Buddhism.

China poured troops into the region to restore order in the wake of the
protests. Xiahe was still under heavy armed guard earlier this month, a
Reuters eyewitness reported.

On Wednesday, the main street of Xiahe showed a few buildings with
broken windows but little other obvious damage.

The incident is the second disruption by protesting Buddhist monks
during a stage-managed tour organized for reporters.

In late March, Chinese authorities were embarrassed after about 30 monks
stormed a briefing by a temple administrator for a select group of
foreign journalists at the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, shouting that the
reporters were being lied to.

Monastery officials played down Wednesday's protest.

“What you journalists just saw was a very small minority of people who
disrupt our harmonious and peaceful life and religious activities, said
Gongqihujinba, vice-director of the Labrang monastery's management
committee.

“We will take care of them under national law. What they did was not
consistent with national security laws, or rules on religion,” said
Gongqihujinba, who is also a member of an advisory body to Gansu's
provincial parliament.

Guomangcang, dean of religious affairs at a provincial Buddhism academy
attached to Labrang, suggested that the monks may have been put up to
the protest.

“Maybe the young ones were not acting of their own accord, maybe someone
influenced them,” Guomangcang said.

China has said Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and his
associates are behind the unrest. The Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in
India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule, has
denied the accusation.
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